It is the year 2049, and the 40th year anniversary of my graduation from my alma mater. It is a beautiful, breezy and sunshiny day in May, and I am walking the campus, reliving memories of my undergrad experience, and the friends I made there. We used to walk beneath these cherry blossoms, together on the way to the dining hall. Everything is so different now, though, that I can barely recognize my surroundings. Only these trees remain untouched, bound as much to the soil as they are to my memories.
Ordinarily my friends and I would all meet here for reunion, but with most of my friends abroad or spending time with family, I was the only one who was able to make it. A funny thing, since my "crime" on campus was that I was always away, going on adventures in the city at the big universities. It cost me some friendships, but I was lucky anyway, and forged friendships that withstood the test of time. It was just as my mentor told me. These were the friendships that would last me the rest of my life. Still, it stings knowing that year after year, they can't be here with me. After dining with a few alumni, and catching up with old acquaintances, the sun sets on campus, and I think of the long commute I must make back to my metropolis. With a wistful sigh, I return to my vehicle, and begin the long drive home.
A few weeks later, I am at home, working on dinner, when I hear a knock on the door. "Hey, Minerva," I say, calling out to my home's computer. The computer responds, ready to receive my command. "Show me who's at the door." With a cheerful chirp, the kitchen wall illuminates to replace my recipe with a live feed of my front door. My guest has turned very briefly from the camera, and then jolts to attention as the front door illuminates. Dropping my spatula, I fled to the front door to greet one of my closest and oldest friends the old fashioned way. "Tiffany! What are you doing here?!" I shout, equal parts elated and confused. We giggle like young girls, swaying each other in pure unadulterated joy. I hadn't seen her in years, but she as always, it's like no time has passed at all since we last saw each other.
"I came to see you, before I ship off to Mars!" Typical Tiffany, ever spontaneous and adventurous, and dropping earth shattering news like it's as common as getting a new job.
"Mars?! What on earth for?" It wasn't exactly the sort of thing I ever expected to be possible in our lifetimes, but regular launches were made for almost 20 years, with commercial launches made available and affordable in the last 4.
"Well, that's the thing! Nothing on earth. You know how much I've traveled, and at this point I've explored every continent on the planet. Billy and I thought it would be a great idea to make the trip before we're too old to make it in one piece!" Her eyes were sparkling. I knew there was no talking her out of this one, crazy as it sounded.
It's true, at 62, they were already testing their luck, but they were in the best shape of their lives, and I don't know better candidates for the launch. I could feel the sadness welling up. She said she'd be back, but I knew better. Everything else in her life was a means to the single end to explore and meet as make as many friends as possible. If ever there were a bigger extrovert, I didn't know them. I could a feel a deep sadness swelling inside of me. I was thrilled for her, but I knew I would miss her terribly.
"You're never coming back, are you?"
She said nothing for a time, instead, fishing around in her bag. "I got this for you." From her bag, she removed a cube shaped object, placing it very carefully on the floor. Kneeling, she pressed down on the top face of the cube with her thumb, before standing and walking a few paces away from it. The object levitated, the faces shifting until the object became more diamond shaped. With a pleasant chirp, it emitted a light at Tiffany, scanning her from head to toe. At last, the object turned towards me, before landing in my hand and collapsing into a square, an assuming white with a shiny black rim.
"What? What is it?" I asked, dumbfounded.
Tiffany laughed. "It's so rare to see you stunned by technology! Hold on a second, I'll be right back!" She left the house, closing the door behind her.
I examined the square. It was hefty, but not at all uncomfortable to be held. It felt about as heavy as a tablet might have in my youth. Suddenly, the object began vibrating, startling me. I seemed to watch it fall to the floor in slow motion. Ever the klutz, she had left me with the object for just a few minutes, and I was already ready to break it. But it didn't break, instead landing with a satisfying clack. Before I could stoop to pick it up, the object lights up, a bright node of light tracing the rim of the square. At once, the entire rim illuminates, the device shooting up a beam of light as it begins to form a 3D polygon of my friend, in mid air, filling it in with incredible fidelity. I feel I can almost touch her, but it her visage passes through my fingers like warm sunlight.
Mouth agape, I stare at this image of my friend, who is doubled over laughing. "You should see your face! Actually, wait, I can do that." The device chirps, reflecting my stunned face back at me. I laugh so hard my eyes fill with tears. At that moment, I truly feel like a child again, like the first time I rode in a Tesla over 30 years ago. As the laughter subsides, I just stare in awe as the image seamlessly flits back to her likeness.
"Okay, so what the hell is this thing?"
"It's the latest in holographic communication technology! I worked for months to make sure nobody told you about it. It will be on the market with a few months, but you get to be one of our beta testers! It doesn't have a name yet, but they're working on it!"
"Wait, wait, wait. How did you even get a hold of this?"
"Friends in high places I suppose," she said, with a mischievous smile. "Okay, I'm coming back inside." The image animates as she moves toward the house, a live feed of her every movement. I am beside myself with glee.
Reentering the house, she takes my hands, and looks into my eyes. "So, do you like it?"
"You know how I feel technology. This is amazing. But why are you giving this to me?"
She looks down, thinking about how to say it for a moment. "The truth is, I'm not really sure if we will make it back. One way is one thing, but we are getting on in years, and there's no telling how the red planet will affect us physically. We're two of the oldest candidates to sign up! Imagine, me, admitting I'm old! Ideally we'd love to come back, but, there's always a chance that things won't go according to plan. I know this doesn't make up for me being gone, but, I just want you to know, no matter how many light years apart we are, we will always be friends."
Tears blur my vision, but I quickly blink them away. "Okay. We'll always be friends."
She hugs me one last time, before turning to leave.
Six months later, I am in my living room, reading the latest news about the launch en route to Mars. The device rests on my bookcase, discreet in its cube form. Minerva chirps up.
"You have an incoming transmission from Tiffany. Would you like to accept?"
"Yes," I respond, scurrying to the bookcase in excitement. Placing it on the floor, the rim illuminates as before, before stitching Tiffany's likeness up in front of me. She is seated, likely on a couch like mine. As her arms form, I can see that she is holding something. No, someone.
Looking into the device, her eyes sparkling with warmth, she says, "Hello Asia! Say hello to the firstborn of Mars!" The device chirps, modifying the 3D polygon, revealing a beautiful baby boy.
I smile, my eyes filling with tears. "I can't believe it. You did it for the 'gram."
A/N: A response to Kristen's prompt! Did not expect to go this far, but I was feeling pretty wistful after my friend's bridal shower this weekend.